Japan acknowledges first Fukushima radiation related death, seven years after disaster

The government of Japan acknowledged for the first time that a former worker of the Fukushima nuclear plant has died as a result of radiation exposure – seven years after the plant was hit by a tsunami.

It’s not clear when the man died, however the country’s health and labor ministry said the man died of cancer triggered by exposure to radiation and that his family should receive workers’ compensation, state broadcaster NHK reported.

In March 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook Japan’s north east, triggering a massive tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi plant and sparked its meltdown. More than 18,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami.

The quake and massive flooding knocked out power for the cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Three of the six reactors had partial meltdowns. Radiation spewed into the air, and highly contaminated water ran into the Pacific.

The man, who was only identified as being in his 50s, was in charge of measuring the radiation levels at the plant immediately after the disaster. He worked at the plant for over 28 years and wore a protective jumpsuit and a full facemask while working

The man was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2016, Sky News reported. His family has asked that the exact date of his death remains private.

The health ministry said the man “developed cancer due to total radiation exposure of around 195 millisiverts,” NHK reported.

According to Reuters, exposure to 100 millisieverts of radiation in a year “is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident.”

This is the first fatality the Japanese government has attributed to radiation, however, four other Fukushima workers who developed leukemia and thyroid cancer after working on the plant clean up were deemed eligible for compensation.

According to a report in the Asashi Shumbun daily newspaper, 17 Fukushima plant workers have filed for workers’ compensation with the health ministry. Four have been granted compensation, and five claims have been rejected. Another five are pending and two have withdrawn their claims